Saint Matthias, Apostle and Martyr

Feast Day: Western Rite February 24, Eastern Rite August 9,
New Roman calendar moves St Matthias' feast
to May 14 to get him out of Lent and into Easter.


The Greek Matthias (or, in some manuscripts, Maththias), is a name derived from Mattathias, Heb. Mattithiah, signifying "gift of Yahweh." Matthias was one of the seventy disciples of Jesus, and had been with Him from His baptism by John to the Ascension (Acts i, 21, 22). It is related (Acts, i, 15-26) that in the days following the Ascension, Peter proposed to the assembled brethren, who numbered one hundred and twenty, that they choose one to fill the place of the traitor Judas in the Apostolate. Two disciples, Joseph, called Barsabas, and Matthias were selected, and lots were drawn, with the result in favor of Matthias, who thus became associated with the eleven Apostles. He was a witness to the Resurrection.

We should always choose Matthias as the one who will heal the betrayals in our own midst.

All further information concerning the life and death of Matthias is vague and contradictory. According to Nicephorus (Hist. eccl., 2, 40), he first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Ethiopia (that is to say, Colchis) and was crucified. The Synopsis of Dorotheus contains the tradition that Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and cannibals in the interior of Ethiopia, at the harbor of the sea of Hyssus, at the mouth of the river Phasis; that he died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun. Still another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded (cf. Tillemont, "Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire eccl. des six premiers siècles", I, 406-7). It is said that St. Helena brought the relics of St. Matthias to Rome where they repose in Saint Mary Major, and that a portion of them are at the abatical church of Trier. A church in Rome bears his name. Bollandus (Acta SS., May, III) believes the relics that are in Rome are those of the St. Matthias who was Bishop of Jerusalem about the year 120, and whose history would seem to have been confounded with that of the Apostle.

St. Clement of Alexandria tells us that "He exhausted his body by mortification to make his spirit subject to the Crucified".

An Old English poem "Andreas" tells the story that he worked among cannibal savages.

Some believe he preached in Judea, in Cappadocia, and around the Caspian Sea where he was persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles, and died by stoning, possibly in the year 63 AD, or was stoned, crucified, or cut to pieces at Colchis in 80 AD. Some legends also say he preached on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Some say that Matthias died shortly after his election and that Paul succeeded him. Other legends say that he preached in Ethiopia, Africa and later died in Sevastopol, Ukraine. One tradition says he was martyred in Colchis, near modern Georgia in the Caucausus, where Jason found the Golden Fleece.

Clement of Alexandria (Strom., III, 4) records a sentence that the Nicolaitans ascribe to Matthias: "we must combat our flesh, set no value upon it, and concede to it nothing that can flatter it, but rather increase the growth of our soul by faith and knowledge". This teaching was probably found in the Gospel of Matthias which was mentioned by Origen (Hom. i in Lucam); by Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, 25), who attributes it to heretics; by St. Jerome (Praef. in Matth.), and in the Decree of Gelasius (VI, 8) which declares it apocryphal. It is at the end of the list of the Codex Barrocciamus (206). This Gospel is probably the document whence Clement of Alexandria quoted several passages, saying that they were borrowed from the traditions of Matthias, Paradoseis, the testimony of which he claimed to have been invoked by the heretics Valentinus, Marcion, and Basilides (Strom., VII, 17). According to the Philosophoumena, VII, 20, Basilides quoted apocryphal discourses, which he attributed to Matthias. These three writings: the gospel, the Traditions, and the Apocryphal Discourses were identified by Zahn (Gesch. des N. T. Kanon, II, 751), but Harnack (Chron. der altchrist. Litteratur, 597) denies this identification. Tischendorf ("Acta apostolorum apocrypha", Leipzig, l85I) published after Thilo, 1846, "Acta Andreae et Matthiae in urbe anthropophagarum ", which, according to Lipsius, belonged to the middle of the second century. This apocrypha relates that Matthias went among the cannibals and, being cast into prison, was delivered by Andrew. It should be remembered that, in the apocryphal writings, Matthew and Matthias have sometimes been confounded. He is the Patron of alcoholism, carpenters, reformed alcoholics, smallpox, and tailors

Cf. Catholic Software; E. JACQUIER, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X, 1911